Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Camberwell Green Councillors Annual Report - The first year of this Administration

Annual Report from Camberwell Green Ward Councillors 2007

This time last year, we were in the build up to the local election. Camberwell was identified as a key seat with the smallest Labour majority in the Borough. Dora and John were reselected to stand as candidates, and were joined by Chris who was standing for the first time

As the campaign progressed it became more and more apparent that the Liberal Democrats were not contesting Camberwell and we therefore asked members to help in the more closely contested Brunswick Park. In May we had an election result we can all be proud of. In Camberwell Green there was a 22% swing to Labour, and Camberwell Green is second only to Peckham for strength of Labour vote for any ward in the whole of London. Thank you to all the members who selected us and have given us your support at selection, in the campaign and beyond. We are only able to do our job because of your support. Thank you.

Since May, we have kept up the hard work. We now hold six surgeries a month, more than any other ward in Southwark, we are putting out direct mails, surgery cards and newsletters. The campaign continues with Christmas Cards sent over Christmas and a Rose planned in the next few weeks. This will be in the format of an Annual Report and will go out in April .

In the Council, Dora has been elected as the Chair of the Labour Group, vice-chair of the Disciplinary Appeals Committee and she chairs the Fairtrade Steering Committee. Chris is the Group Treasurer and member of the Environment and Community Safety Scrutiny Sub-Committee and co-chair of the Transport Study Group of Camberwell Community Council with Dora. John is on the Shadow Executive as Community Safety Spokesperson and is also the Chair of Education and Children Scrutiny Sub-Committee and chairs the Crime Study Group of Camberwell Community Council.

In Camberwell we have been working hard tackling local problems and difficulties that people have had. There have been a number of planning issues where the Council has failed people and where we have stepped in and made a difference. On Caspian Street, work has finally restarted on a previously abandoned building which was attracting anti-social problems to the area. In Warner Street, a car pound which has been operating without consent and causing problems for their neighbours is being shut down in the next few weeks. And in Urlwin Street we have fought hard against a new development which is not suitable for the area, taking it to the point where the Council considered challenging the development in the High Court.

After a long campaign, we now have controlled parking in North Camberwell which is proving successful. For too long people around the Grosvenor Estate could not park as out of town commuters parked their cars there all day and got the bus into London. There was parking chaos and a lot of local anger. The Controlled Parking Zone means residents can now park nearer their homes and the estate is less congested.

In October, we took the new Chief Executive, Annie Sheppard, around the ward to give her a feel of the different areas and communities within it. We also pointed out areas which we need help in resolving such as investment in Camberwell Green centre, better cleaning and maintenance on Brandon 3, trees being cut back on the Grosvenor and new play facilities for St Joseph’s Primary School as well as a new public toilet on Camberwell Green.
We have continued to keep in touch with local groups and regularly attend the neighbourhood housing forums, the TRA’s and new groups like the SE5 Forum and the Transport Study Group. We are also keeping up our work with the Safer Neighbourhood Team. We have been working with them to set the priorities that matter to the area such as cracking down on anti-social behaviour. While the Safer Neighbourhood Team make a real difference, Camberwell still has crime problems. It is one of the top five London wards for violent crime, a fact that was all too tragically brought to the fore before Christmas with the fatal shooting on Camberwell Road. Since then, we have all been working with the Police to press for action to be taken to stop this sort of terrible crime from happening again.

Our campaign to get the investment we need into Camberwell Leisure Centre continues. We were dealt a serious blow at the most recent Camberwell Community Council when the head of Leisure told us that one of the recommendations he would be putting to the Executive was to close Camberwell Leisure Centre. This is something that has never been on the table and we had thought that there had been cross party support for regenerating the Leisure Centre, with the only disagreement being where to get the money from. At Council Assembly this was raised and the Executive denied it would be closed, but we will continue to keep up the pressure to make sure that the Lib Dem/Tory coalition that run the Council know how important this is to Camberwell and that they can not continue to leave us and our needs behind.

We also argued against the lack of community consultation when we discovered that the Executive were proposing to sell of the Age Concern building in Crawford Road. This has been empty for years and we tried to encourage both Age Concern and the Council to allow local community groups to use it but without success. Following our intervention we have now got a last minute agreement that when the building is sold there will be a caveat that the ground floor will have some form of community use.

Dora has continued to work on promoting Fairtrade in the Borough. Fairtrade fortnight starts on Monday 26th February and we will be having sampling stalls in all the shopping malls including Butterfly Walk in Camberwell. Dora is looking for volunteers to help staff it. If you are interested in helping (not more than 2hours at a time) then please let Dora know.

The Decent Homes work in Camberwell continues with varying success in different parts of the ward. We are continuing to take up individual problems and work with the Area Housing Office to make sure that people get the works they need and that they are carried out as well as possible.

Chris has been continuing to work on transport issues in Camberwell and has met with the Executive Members as well as people in transport planning to find solutions to some of Camberwell’s transport problems. This will be a long process, but the work goes on.

Thank you for your support over the last year and as always we want to hear what you think. Are we getting it right or are there things you want us to focus on? Please talk to us and let us know.

Best wishes,

Councillors Dora Dixon-Fyle, John Friary, Chris Page

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tackling gun crime in South London and Hibs through to third Scottish Cup Semi Final for third successive year!!

I think that some useful initiatives will come out of the Gun Crime Summit last week at No. 10 and I will be glad to see the 5 year minimum sentence for gun position being applied to people from 17 year old and the speeding up of a new law to make replica guns illegal. I also support making gang membership an aggrivating factor in sentencing as I think that people carrying guns need to be clear what the consequences are likely to be if they are caught. They may sound draconian but we need to act now or further down the track we could be in a situation like Washington DC where young black men have a longer life expentancy on Death Row that they have being out in the street!! An extreme example I know but perhaps a vision of a future that none of us want to see?

The Southwark News lists the progress of the "100 days of Change" weekly and some of the "initiatives" look a bit lame. One of them was to "commit to improve Housing Repairs"! (is the current policy not to improve the Hosuing repairs Service?) and another one was that old gimmick of putting flags on dogs mess!!! (hands up for volunteers to do that?)
Does Cllr. Humphries really see this as a priority or is the whole project running out of steam and credibility? His next gimmick is to spend a few days on the Aylesbury but I have to ask if he needs to stay on every estate in the borough to work out what is going wrong with Southwark Housing??

Hibs won through in Dunfries beating Queen of the South 2-1 in what Manager John Collins called "winning ugly!". New boy Sunowmi scoring the winner. Hibs have a small squad and are looking at some short term deals to get them through the season. The loss of Caldwell, O'Conner , Riordan and Thompson in the past year has really put a serious dent in the squad and as well as bringing through the youngsters we do need a bit more experience.
Celtic scrapped through by scoring twice in the last 2 minutes so we have to wait until Thursday's Semi Final draw to see if we can avoid them in the Semi at Hampden!

I watched the Carling Cup and felt sorry for the Arsenal youngsters who played the best football but lost to a late goal and ended up in a full scale
brawl! I am a Red Card member of Arsenal due to one of my work offices facing directly onto Ashburton Grove and believe that Arsenal and Man U are playing by far the most attrative football in the Premiership this season.

Friday, February 23, 2007

More "Liberal Democracy" in Southwark Town Hall

It was another frustrating and angry night at the Town Hall on Wednesday.
Lib Dem apologist blogger, Andy Mayer, described me as "excitable" on his wonderfully balanced site! I am sure that if the Lib Dems proposed slaughter of the first born he would describe it as an education efficiency saving!!
Mr Mayer even managed to confuse something said by Cllr. Sandra Rhule (making an excellent contribution!) as being attributed to me? Confusing me with a black women is obviously an easy mistake to make for Peter John's "favourite blogger" (Andy - have you ever heard of irony?)

The main reason, once again for my anger, is the complete contempt and absence of any political principle from the Lib Dems and the Tories and they showed their true colours both at the Executive meeting the week before where they allowed no public questions arising from about 8 deputations and at Council Assembly. I know the numbers and expect defeat at every vote but at least I expect them to treat the process with respect but their arrogance really has taken over, especially in the Stanton/Humphries Leadership!

They would not allow more than 15 minutes debate on 2 Camberwell Leisure Centre motions and referred to Labour Administration plans to close and sell of the Centre in 1998. This is a clear and deliberate lie and I asked for a ruling from the Mayor and an opinion from the Acting Borough Solicitor but was told to sit down and shut up!
I will revisit this at OSC Call-In and through the Standards Board!

Then there was a lot of bluster about the budget with it all being the fault of the Labour Government and the Labour Mayor, so pathetically predictable!!!
What really angered all of us was the issue of the Audit Commitee. I moved an amendment to stop an SRA but that was always going to fail as more Lib Dems may need to be bought off by the Leadership ahead of the annual elections.
I also argued for an Opposition Chair due to the scrutiny aspect of the Committee but that again was always due to fail.

During the discussion Humphries was scuttling around with Stanton and Hubber and suddenly moved Tory Cllr. Lewis Robinson as Vice Chair which was voted for and passed. As well as being completely anti-democratic it was stupid as no member of OSC could Chair the committee and even on that point the Legal advice was pathetic!!
Luckily, one member opposite had some political integrity, Lewis himself, and he then refused the position and asked for support for Richard Livingstone. He also suggested a rotating Chair which i think was also agreed.

Well done to Lewis but it does not hide the shame of the rest of them who were willing to go through with it (I might exempt James Gurling, Chair of the committee, who did look very uncomfortable!)

I am thinking about our new Camberwell Green Labour Rose and think that it may be an Annual Report format. Below is the last Newsletter and the style that we will keep for our quarterly publications.

Meanwhile the Quarter Final of the Scottish Cup takes place on Saturday when Hibs visit Queen of the South. On paper an easy draw but stranger things have happened!
If we get through it the next hurdle is the draw and hopefully avoiding Celtic in the Semi Finals. Anyway one step at a time !

CIS Cup Final tickets go on sale on Monday so my dad will hopefully sort it out for the 18th March at Hampden Park! Cant wait!




Friday, February 16, 2007

Gun Crime in South London, The "Hollowing out of Camberwell" and Hibs in last 8 of the Scottish Cup

As I said earlier I attended the Public Meeting in Peckham on Monday evening.

There was a massive turnout with people unable to get in so, upon request, a number of us older ones left top let some more young people in. For that reason I did not hear all of the meeting but did hear some really interesting comments from local people talking about the importance of parents in keeping their kids away from seriopus criminal activity and inparticular the important of a male role model for young black boys. This si not a new theory but an interesting one coming directly from the black community itself.

The Met Police will pump extra armed police into South London as a short term reassurrance but we all know that something more fundamental needs to happen in the longer term. I hope that in the short term the police really put the heat of these young armed criminals and bring them to justice through any means necessary!!!

On Tuesday I sat through a frustrating Executive as they agreed a budget again ignoring Camberwell at every turn and then of course starving the Leisure centre from funding but directing millions into Dulwich and Rotherhithe!! I wonder why and if things would have been different if the Lib Dems had taken Brunswick Park!!

It is clearly entirely down to political vindictiveness for which the Lib Dems are famous and the pathetic attempt to justify it as a "business decision" was laughable!!

The pre Election picture of Ming, Hughes and the Lib Dem throngs outside of the Camberwell Leisure Centre promising that they would save it have been shown as lies with the Lib Dem Leadership at the highest level complicite in it!! They really will say anything to anyone to get a vote wont they!!!!
They must really regret this picture!!!!

One of the delegation used the expression "hollowing out" to discribe Council policy towards Camberwell and I can only think that the rationale behind it is that the Lib Dems think that the more they starve camberwell of resources the more residents will want to vote Lib Dem????

There was also lots of whining about the Government funding of Local Government unbeleievably from the Tories and Lib Dems, both of whom would cut public spending by tens of billions of pounds and would cut the basic rate of income tax!!

And what would be the current state of the welfare state if the tories had remained in power after 1997?? I think that we all know the answer!

On a brighter note Hibs take on Queen of the South away in the Quarter Finals of the Cup a week tomorrow and if we win as expecetd and avoid Celtic in the Semis could be at Hampden again?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Violent Crime in Peckham and Camberwell, Camberwell Leisure Centre and CIS Cup Final Looms

I shall be going along to a Public Meeting on the recent murders in Peckham and Camberwell, 3 in under a week, on the back of the fatal shooting in Camberwell at the end of last year and the incident at the Academy at Peckham.
There is clearly no easy answer to tackling this increase in gang warefare which is impacting so greatly on people locally but there is a need for a more positive approach from the Council and Police to give people reasurrance that there is a strategic approach which is being followed through. This has been less that clear in recent times so I will be interested to hear what thye say and to see the public reaction.

I am not really interested in political point scoring on this but the Executive and Police need to raise their game on this or else our criticism will grow!

There are a number of Camberwell Deputations at tomorrow night's Executive and I shall be there with my fellow Camberwell Councillors.
It is clear that we are going to be seriously short changed in what is looking more and more like political vindictiveness, and after witnessing the way in which the Lib Dems treated Danny McCarthy I know that that this would be very much in character for this bunch!!

Hamden Park awaits on March 18th and the tickets are on sale so I am looking forward to another trip there and perhaps the first of 2 trips this season?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Developing a Community Strategy "Southwark 2010"

I was at an OSC Meeting held today in the Town Hall at 10am which gave us 3+ hours to discuss the Community Strategy in detail and it was a really enjoyable meeting as we had time and space to question a number of senior officers on long term strategy.

My big problem again was the lack of any strategic plan for Camberwell. Regeneration and transformational plans were included for other parts of the borough and Camberwell was given only a passing refernece regarding it's future identity!

The future of the Camberwell Leisure Centre and Library were raised as was the need for a Town Centre Manager approach to revitalising Camberwell and a number of positive noises were there from Officers who i think accept that Camberwell is often bypassed! In fact a local resident said that she was fed up of Camberwell being seen as a "through road" and little else!

Perhaps Camberwell is seen as a political wasteland by the Lib Dem/Tory Administration or the fact that it does not need pulling down and rebuilding??? I really dont know but it very hard work to get the Council Executive and officers to take Camberwell seriously!!

Our Scrutiny work on Bullying is coming to a conclusion and I am confident that we can recommend some good practice and look at the internal policies and procedures in operation in the light of Government and specialist advisors guidance. This is the first time that I have done this as Chair so it has been valuable experience.

Hibs beat Gretna 3-1 and with Queen of the South in the quarter finals the prospect of 2 Cup Finals in one season are pretty high, dependant in part but not entirely on not pulling Celtic as a Semi Final opponent.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

100 days of change starts with stickers!!!! and... Hibs make it to Hampden!!!!!

Tory Deputy Leader Kim Humphries kicked off his "100 days of change" with the brilliant idea of stickers on jobs for repair!!!! how long did that idea take ? Can't wait for the other 99!!!!!! no doubt it will all be declared a staggering success when it ends and tenants will get back to putting up with the poor service that they are used to in a Department without a Director, without a clear structure, with half it's offices closed and a frustrating Call Centre all that tenants are left to deal with!! No doubt they will come up with more brilliant ideas just before the next election? Even the Southwark News Editorial, very supportive of the regime since May, found it difficult not to sound ironic and cynical!

On to brighter things I watched Hibs beat St. Johnstone 3-1 after Extra Time in the CIS Cup Semi Finasl at Tynecastle. They struggled after the early goal and in truth were lucky to make it to extra time but always looked like winning after that. Tynecastle looked grim as ever and my dad's report back was pretty bad!

The Final is on March 18th and I will be there to hopefully watch Hibs pick up the Cup as i saw them do in 1972 and 1991 but fail to do on another 6 occasions!!!! Killie are a bit of a bogey team playing very physical football so it is not a foregone conclusion!!!